Humans are Bad at Fact-Checking

In the article “Why You Stink at Fact-Checking,” author and psychology assistant professor Lisa Fazio discusses why humans are unable to detect or understand “fake news” or misinformation- both purposeful and accidental. She illustrates a common example by starting her article off with the Moses Illusion, in which a question about Noah’s ark is asked, but with Noah’s name replaced by Moses. This illusion tricks most people, as many do not catch the name switch. Fazio goes on to say that things like the Moses Illusion happen all the time in current news articles, and as they seem correct enough and they are sneakily thrown in, they often go unnoticed and are accepted. Fazio and her colleagues also conducted studies in which they quizzed participants beforehand to find out what they already knew, and they found that when those people were fed misinformation, they would later answer with the wrong information when quizzed afterwards. (

The cognitive principles used in this article were mainly linked to processing. System 1 processing is a kind of processing that is automatic and unconscious. It allows humans to “know” things without really thinking about them, such as how many fingers someone is holding up without counting each finger. Additionally, a new idea has been proposed and considered generally correct that we automatically assume that information is true until we truly think about it and decide that it is false (

These principles apply to the article as when the participants read the misinformation, they were using their system one processing and thus automatically assumed that the words that they were reading were accurate. As they were unconscious of reading the words as true, participants were led into answering incorrectly as per the misinformation told them to later on, despite them previously knowing the correct answer. However, even when the participants were given alternate methods of absorbing the misinformation and extra time to think about it, they still did not notice the false information.

I think that this article did an excellent job of talking about these cognitive psychology topics and ideas. I could definitely tell that it was written by a practiced and knowledgeable psychologist. I liked that the author used both previous research and her own research to truly explain and dive into the subject matter at hand. I think it truly highlighted the knowledge that the author has in the field. The author’s writing style also made her familiarity with psychology clear, as the article was perfectly concise without leaving anything unexplained, and did not use any flowery language to appear more pompous and worldly.

I thought that the topic and information was very interesting, and also very relevant to today’s time. In this recent few years, America in particular has been wading in “fake news” and misinformation from the media and important individuals in the country. The research done in this article could very well be very helpful in reducing the amount of times people just accept what they read, and could prompt people to examine information a little more closely every time they hear something instead of just allowing system 1 to take over and decide what is true for them.


Fazio, L. (2018, March 29). Why you stink at fact-checking. Retrieved from

Gilbert, D. T., Tafarodi, R. W., & Malone, P. S. (1993). You can’t not believe everything you read. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65(2), 221-233. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.65.2.221


6 thoughts on “Humans are Bad at Fact-Checking

  1. kaylaf

    Why people are bad at fact-checking is so interesting. The idea that we have the knowledge but fail to use it is frustrating. At first glance when doing the Moses illusion I didn’t even notice the name switch. I wondered if my brain just glazed over the name and recognized the rest of the sentence to be right so the whole thing was right? It’s interesting to note that humans have a general bias to believe that things are true; there are some studies that say we process statements as true and it takes a cognitive effort to prove them false. (is that where innocent until proven guilty comes from?).

  2. cookcl

    This is a great topic, especially for this time in America. It is interesting to see the psychology behind why people are like this because we usually do not think that deep into it when it happens. It is funny to see those videos where people go out to events and gatherings and purposefully ask people questions with false information and seeing them agree to it without even knowing what it is really about. They answer almost immediately which just shows the occurrence of system 1 processing.

  3. dnewman

    This is a really interesting concept to read about. When I read an article or am told something, yes, I trust what I’m being told, but that can’t always be the case. When it comes to articles, especially, they have the same issue with using incorrect information. News broadcasts do it all the time. They misinterpret studies or journals and completely flip the concept. Thank you for sharing this! I think this links are really of use.

    1. mbright

      This is a really interesting topic. A lot of us are guilty of just believing what we’re told instead of researching to find out if its true or not. Especially with the stuff we hear in the news. I believe that’s the main reason rumors and lies get spread so quickly. This definitely gives me better insight that I need to take the time to ensure the facts before running with what I hear.

  4. dzuleta

    This seems to be an issue brought up more often today than before because of the issue with “Fake News” and how it can so easily be absorbed by people because the information seems to be believable. I think everyone at some point has accepted some piece of misinformation in their lifetime and I dont think that is necessarily the problem but instead I think the problem is when people neglect to fact check information. Most of this information seems to come from lay-person sources through Facebook, Instagram, and so on. Thank goodness for Research Methods for teaching us to always go to the original source of information before coming to a conclusion of judgment. I think another part of believing false information, intentional or not, is that I think personal bias can aid to what we want to read or hear. For example, a person who has a certain social or political agenda might be reading articles that are likely going to build on their bias which they want to be correct. Do you think that maybe our minds are already processing information when reading an article and they base it off familiarity of a subject. Such as with the example of Noah’s Ark and glancing over clear words because of familiarity?

  5. jadeturner

    This was very interesting in how it relates to todays society. I had not known that there was a name for this! I was actually learning something similar to this in my Comm class. We spoke of the influence of social media and how that effects how we receive our facts. I think some people look to social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to receive their news on politics and world views. But most do not realize that the articles are bias and trying to push a narrative. Most of the time people read a headline and take that as fact, instead of reading the article and digging into what the author is saying. We as people need to do better at fact checking and forming our opinions around true facts.
    Here is an article I found that comes from a journalist and editor. He talks about how we should be skeptics in everything that we read and how to investigate the things we read.

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